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Food Safety and Security: What Tragedy Teaches Us about Our 100-Year-Old Food Laws

Posted by on Friday, August 10, 2012 in Articles, Vol. 40 No. 4, Volume 40, Volumes.

The United States food safety system is antiquated and failing.  The laws that form the foundation of our food protection and govern the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were enacted over 100 years ago.[1] While some new powers were given to FDA with the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, funding has not kept pace.[2] Safe Food International (SFI), a coalition of consumer organizations from around the world, created a set of guidelines outlining an ideal national food safety program.[3] The current system in the United States falls short of that goal.  The outbreaks in 2006 and 2007 are simply the latest symptom of our outdated and failing food-safety system.[4] We need to modernize our food laws and create a strong, science-based Food Safety Administration.  The Safe Food Act of 2007, introduced by Senator Durbin and Representative DeLauro, requires the development of a single food-safety agency with the power to recall food, inspect foreign food plants, and work to prevent both intentional and unintentional contamination of the U.S. food supply.[5]

[1].         James Harvey Young, The Long Struggle for the 1906 Law, FDA Consumer, June 1981, available at

[2].         Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response (Bioterrorism) Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-188, 116 Stat. 594 (codified in scattered sections of 7, 21, 29, and 42 U.S.C.) (2002).

[3].         Caroline Smith DeWaal & Gonzalo R. Guerrero Brito, Safe Food International: A Blueprint for Better Global Food Safety, 60 Food & Drug L.J. 393, 398–405 (2005).

[4].         See, e.g., Scott Kilman, Consumers are Urged to Avoid Bagged Spinach Amid Illnesses, Wall St. J., Sept. 15, 2006, at A8.

[5].         Safe Food Act of 2007, S. 654, H.R. 1148, 110th Cong. (2007).

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